Culinary how-to tapes

October 21, 1990|By Andy Wickstrom | Andy Wickstrom,Knight-Ridder News Service

A wide audience -- more precisely, an uninitiated one -- is the target of Paramount Home Video's "Celebrity Guide to Wine" (58 minutes, $19.95). The tape's intent is to banish the anxiety of the insecure diner when confronted with a wine list.

The celebrities include Dudley Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Herbie Hancock, Shelley Hack, Kelly LeBrock, Steven Seagal and Robert Loggia. Wine enthusiasts all, they're on hand to furnish marquee appeal and comic relief, but the real star is Bernard Erpicum, maitre d' of California's chi-chi Spago Restaurant.

Mr. Erpicum tells, with a delightful French accent, how winecame by their names (by growing region in France, by grape type in the United States), shows how wine is made and explains why different wine-glass shapes suit different wines. Above all, he assures us, there are no rules except to enjoy wine in the way that suits your preference.

But if one must cling to rules, the novice will feel comfortable adhering to the wine selections collected in "Bernard's Picks," in which Mr. Erpicum lists his favorites.

Mr. Erpicum is sensitive to price as a consumer concern. A few hundred-dollar bottles surface in his "Picks," but under-$10 and under-$20 selections predominate.

Coincidentally there's a wine connection with another food tape being released this month, J2 Communications' "Trucs of the Trade" (72 minutes, $19.95). The tape is sponsored by wine distributor Kobrand and contains segments that highlight some of the wines the company represents.

Commercials aside, this is an unusual cooking tape. "Truc" (rhymes with "fluke") is a French word for a short cut or helpful hint used in the kitchen, and this cassette offers more than 90 of them presented by a who's who in restaurants and cookery. Craig Claiborne, Anne Rosenzweig, Paula Wolfert, Andre Soltner, Jacques Pepin and Philadelphia's Georges Perrier of Le Bec-Fin are just a few of the 48 renowned food experts who lend their talents to this collection.

The "trucs" are divided into sections such as vegetables, fruit, wine, pastries and eggs, but there are so many individual clips and they roll by so quickly that it's impossible to watch without using your remote control. If the tape has a negative side, it's the lack of a quick locator system for zipping to the segment you want to review.

Most of the chefs appear in their kitchens, dressed for work.

For anyone interested in food trade secrets, "Trucs" is compelling. You'll learn how to: cut a cheesecake with dental floss; decant wine using a candle; restore burned rice; make a butter flower; open a champagne bottle; turn a Ziploc bag into a cake decorator; cut parchment that fits a pan exactly; create a "third hand" for holding a bowl in place while you whisk with one hand and add ingredients with the other; eradicate the cooking odors of cabbage and cauliflower; and make an omelet just the way they do at Lutece.

Some of these "trucs" tend to be esoteric -- at last! how to crack a quail egg! -- but at least as many are useful to everyday cooks. Mr. Claiborne's "truc" for cutting and presenting mango, which he discovered in Bali, is worth the price alone.

One reason so many culinary stars appear on this tape is that part of the proceeds will be donated to Share Our Strength, a restaurant-industry organization that combats homelessness and hunger. The tape can be ordered directly from J2 at (800) 448-2449.

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